The Big 12 is one of the most unpredictable conferences in college football year in and year out. There are about 5 Big 12 teams every year that are capable of beating their conference opponents on any given day. In terms of determining which teams are dark horses to win the conference, there are several factors to keep in mind. Successful teams usually feature an experienced depth chart, and more importantly, an experienced offensive line.
While the importance of playmakers (quarterbacks, running backs, receivers) cannot be overlooked, no play can be made without the protection of a unified offensive line. In the pass-heavy Big 12, nothing is more important than providing your quarterback with time in the pocket.
With that being said, this article attempts to look through the Big 12 and determine which teams have the makings of a dark horse and will contend for the conference title.
1) Iowa State Cyclones
2018 record: 8-5
Odds to win Big 12: +1200
The Iowa State Cyclones and their offensive-minded head coach, Matt Campbell, could definitely make a run at the conference title. The program is right on the cusp of becoming nationally relevant, ready to shed their label: a scrappy underdog that upsets tougher opponents. The Cyclones have become a legitimate contender in the Big 12, and are no longer just an upset waiting to happen.
Sophomore Quarterback Brock Purdy is looking to build off an impressive freshman season in which he was quickly awarded playing time under center. Purdy’s accuracy is really what makes him a special talent. His passing ability is right up there with every other quarterback in the Big 12, including Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts. This season, he will be leading an offense that has been transformed into one of the most respectable units in college football under Campbell’s guidance.
Although the Cyclones lost their star running back, David Montgomery, to the NFL draft, they are returning 16 starters from last season, making them one of the most experienced teams in all of Division 1. That being said, Iowa State has a fairly light schedule, their toughest matchup being on the road against the Oklahoma Sooners, a game they would likely lose anyway.
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